That Darn Cat

on February 14, 1997 by Christine James
   Christina Ricci is called upon to once again trot out her second-rate Winona-Ryder-in-"Beetlejuice" riff as the black-garbed caustic misfit girl in this remake of the 1965 Hayley Mills starrer "That Darn Cat." Ricci plays Patti, a dour teen whose only companion is her ubiquitous cat, D.C., a frolicsome feline who's always getting into trouble. One day, after D.C. returns from his nightly mayhem-stirring rounds throughout town, Patti discovers that someone has put a watch around the cat's neck. Upon examination, she finds the word "hell" scratched onto the back of the watch's face. She concludes that "hell" is actually an unfinished "help," and that a recent headline-making kidnapping victim is the originator of the message. She contacts the FBI, who predictably ridicule her, but end up assigning an incompetent rookie (Doug E. Doug) to the case. Together, the two try to follow D.C. to obtain more clues. As an aside, the interactions between the town's cartoonish denizens are chronicled, to exasperatingly eye-rolling effect.
   Scripters Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, best known for such eccentric projects as "Ed Wood" and "The People Vs. Larry Flynt", have put some wacky, oblique touches on the story that are above the cleverness level of the film as a whole. The screenplay seems to be in a tug-of-war of being dumbed-down and smartened-up. Tracking a cat's hijinks may be a six-year-old's idea of high comedy, but the parents who accompany their children will be bored stiff. The story could have picked up interest if deductive reasoning rather than fluke happenstance had been employed in solving the case.
   While the Humane Society assures us in the end credits that the harrowing cat stunts were monitored and "no animal was harmed in the making of this film," any animal-themed movie that ends with the central critter and a love interest running off with litter of newborns stumbling after them should be cited under the Geneva Convention for cringe-inducing cruelty to humans. Starring Christina Ricci and Doug E. Doug. Directed by Bob Spiers. Written by S.M. Alexander and L.A. Karaszewski. Produced Robert Simonds. A Buena Vista release. Comedy. Rated PG for mild thematic elements. Running time: 90 min.
Tags: Starring Christina Ricci, Doug E. Doug, Directed by Bob Spiers, Written by S.M. Alexander, L.A. Karaszewski, Produced Robert Simonds, Buena Vista, Comedy

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